Wednesday, July 29, 2015

All Star Western, Vol. 6: End of the Trail by Jimmy Palmiotti, Justin Gray, Staz Johnson (Illustrations)

All Star Western, Vol. 6: End of the TrailAll Star Western, Vol. 6: End of the Trail by Jimmy Palmiotti
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I'm going to miss this series like crazy! I never thought I'd get so sucked into Jonah Hex, but there you have it. Hex is back from the future with his companion Gina, and they end up in a proverbial hornet's nest. Things don't go to well for either of them. Along the way, Hex meets up with a boon companion, Tallulah Black, and they are on the trail of a Jonah Hex imposter who is killing and rampaging across the west. Hex isn't going to take his name getting tarnished lightly.

This is violent western action. Those who are squeamish might want to pass it by. But I submit that it's too good not to read if you like Westerns and antiheroes. Jonah Hex is an honery cuss, but he's the guy you want backing you up again the scum that populated the Old West. The artist is different than the other volumes, but the artwork is just as good. I'm studying perspective in my drawing class, and this book was an excellent example of perspective done right, and how crisp a background it makes in a picture. My teacher said he learned perspective from comic books and I can see what he means. It helped the lightbulb to come on for me.

So all together, I love so much about this series. I will sincerely miss it. We don't get enough Old Western fiction nowadays, so having a good graphic novel series to turn to was a bonus. I hope that sometime soon we see more of Jonah Hex and the other DC Old West characters that have shown up in this series again in the near future.

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Fables, Volume 14: Witches by Bill Willingham, Mark Buckingham (Illustrator), Steve Leialoha (Illustrator), David Lapham (Illustrator), Jim Fern (Illustrator), Andrew Pepoy (Illustrator), Craig Hamilton (Illustrator)

Fables, Vol. 14: Witches (Fables, #14)Fables, Vol. 14: Witches by Bill Willingham
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Fables series is back on track after Volume 13 Fables, Vol. 13: The Great Fables Crossover, which was one of the first volumes in the series I didn't rate five stars in a long time. When I considered this book, I knew I was being extra-picky not to give it five stars. The story really is excellent, and some of the profound questions I've had about the Witches on the 13th Floor are starting to be answered. The reveal on Frau Totenkinder is deeper than I thought and was written so poetically. You even get a glimpse into the power politics between the 13th Floor witches. Frau Totenkinder has a young rival in Ozma. Yet they will have to work together to defeat the threat of the Dark Man, known as Mr. Dark. He is out to destroy all the Fables and build his own kingdom of darkness in its place. He truly is creepy and a terrible enemy. The secret of the power of the gateways and the magic that sustains Fabletown itself is revealed, and it's very much related to both Mr. Dark and an ancient corp of sorcerers who fought dark magic for the Empire, and Frau Totenkinder goes on a journey to recruit one of them to help their cause.

So much happens in this volume that I feel that I will get spoilery if I go into it. I did like the side story about Frogcatcher and Red Riding Hood. I always like catching up with the various Fables and seeing how life is treating them (and that's not always well).

This series is so near and dear to my heart. I'm glad it bounced back from the last volume so adroitly.

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Mistress by Mistake by Kim Lawrence

Mistress by MistakeMistress by Mistake by Kim Lawrence
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Not bad, but I never did come to like Drew very much. He commits the cardinal sin of being way too 'entitled'. He's entitled to judge Eve at first glance, and when he gets enlightened on the situation, he feels like it's his right to seduce her into bed, even knowing that he doesn't want a commitment. So what, his heart was broken by his childhood sweetheart. No reason to become a commitment avoidant jerk. I couldn't really believe in their romance together, so that's why I didn't like this book more. Otherwise, it had a distinct atmosphere. No exotic locations or extravagant throwing of money around. It's set in a small town and Eve is just about done raising her younger brother since he's about to go to college. Drew is the uncle of Eve's brother's best friend. He's got his nephew in awe of him because of his reputation as a ladies' man and a tough city businessman. Eve is as down to earth as they come, and I really liked that about her. I think she could have done better with a love interest. I kind of liked the end, although I don't think I would be wanting to get amorous in my great-aunt's house. Not one of my favorites by this author, but it wasn't bad. I think it just caught me in a picky mood.

By the way, the name is completely erroneous.

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Friday, July 24, 2015

Element of Risk by Robyn Donald

Element of Risk (Harlequin Presents, #1803)Element of Risk by Robyn Donald

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


**Disclaimer:  This book does involve past adultery between the lead characters. I pretty much hate adultery in romance novels. I avoid those storylines when I can.  But this sounded very interesting, and the adultery does seem to fall into the accidental category, if that can be said about marital cheating.   One of the reasons I rated this four stars is because Donald takes this novel to deep waters.  What you think you know about the characters gets turned on its ear before everything is over.  And initially, while one might tend to think of the wife as the victim, you will find out soon that it's not the case at all.  Perdita is a strong woman, and I loved seeing that she went from vulnerable teenager to independent, self-actualized mature woman with her own life and her own finances. She goes back to confront Luke and to get acquainted on her own terms, willing to tangle with Luke in order to have the chance to know her children.

I liked this book quite a bit. I think the strength of it was that the author really allowed the reader to walk in Perdita's shoes. That was hugely crucial, considering that she's effectively an adulteress. And while I hate adultery, I couldn't judge her or even Luke for that matter.  I'm not saying that I'm sanguine about the situation.  But by the end of the book, I had to come to terms with everything.  I won't spoil, but the deceased wife definitely doesn't come out of this looking like a martyr or smelling like roses.  Luke did annoy me quite a bit, but he grew on me by the end of the book. He was as much as a victim as Perdita was, and he did really care about his children, loved his wife, and much to his chagrin, loved Perdita.  There were a lot of ugly words thrown at Perdita, considering that she was underage (at least according to my standards--16-17) when it happened, but she held her own, and Luke wasn't really as much of a b*stard as he could have been (especially by old school Robyn Donald standards).

The dynamic with the twins was interesting, as Perdita got to know them, and they got to know her.  The ending was a bit weird with what happens, but that's just me.

I give this four stars because it meets my criteria for a very good Harlequin Presents:  well written, angsty, dramatic, likable heroine, intense storyline. I wanted to keep reading and I wasn't in a hurry to finish it. It's a plus that the hero has to admit his love for Perdita fairly sooner than usual in these books.

This is on Kindle (and that's the format I read). It's worth checking out as long as adultery of any kind isn't completely a no-no for a reader. Normally I pass it by, but this was a good book and the adultery wasn't rationalized or dismissed as immaterial.



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Sunday, July 19, 2015

The Vengeance Affair by Carole Mortimer

The Vengeance AffairThe Vengeance Affair by Carole Mortimer

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


It took me a while to read this because of other stuff going on. This was pretty good. I think the name is hugely misleading. That's not what this book is about at all.  It's nothing that exciting.  Beau Garrett is a talk show host who is recuperating in the boonies after a life threatening accident.  He hires female landscaper, Jaz Logan, who is living under the shadow of her mother running off with someone else's husband.  They strike up an uneasy friendship that turns into love.

Beau is a bit of a misanthrope.  Jaded and sophisticated, and fairly grumpy.  Jaz is highly stressed with all the burdens she's had to carry her life, dealing a shame forced on her just because she is the daughter of her mother.  They find an unlikely connection that isn't just physical.  Beau knows he's too old for her, and Jaz feels that she's not sophisticated enough for Beau.  But there seems to be something that continue pulls them together.

I didn't think this was terribly exciting. It was okay. Not bad, but not particularly distinctive.  Books like this make you wonder how the writer felt when they were writing it. If I'm not excited as a reader, are they while they are writing it. Being creative is hard and lonely work.  You need to feel a drive to finish that work. If the results turn out blah, doesn't the author feel that when they are in the midst of its creation?  I digress.  So, yes this is just a three star read from me.  It kept my interest, but not in a spectacular way. It was a good read before bedtime. 



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Wolverine MAX, Vol. 1: Permanent Rage by Jason Starr (Text), Connor Willumson (Illustrations)

Wolverine MAX, Vol. 1: Permanent RageWolverine MAX, Vol. 1: Permanent Rage by Jason Starr

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


This one ain't for the kiddies!  The f-bomb shows up and there is nudity and plenty of in your face violence.  I don't necessarily need that to enjoy a story, but I feel that the violence is part and parcel of Wolverine aka James Logan Howlett's life.  This book is a good one for people who got introduced to Wolverine via the Marvel Movie Universe and want to dive into the graphic novels about this beloved and complex character.

This starts with a boom and ends fairly the same way. The reader is just as confused as Wolverine about his situation, since he is afflicted with memory loss.  Of course, Wolverine's personal Satan, Sabertooth is there to engineer chaos and destruction and to try to convert Wolverine to his way of doing things, psychopathic behavior.  But Wolverine is no one's plaything. He's a strong-minded person, and while he doesn't always do the right thing, he is guided by an intrinsic sense of honor that keeps him from going over the edge and into the abyss where Sabertooth happily lives.

I gave this four stars because I just plain love this character. The writer gets this character, and he conveys the essence of him to readers, older and newer fans alike. However, I do have a quibble. Some of the artwork was just ugly. Wolverine is a hairy guy, let's face it. But they made him look like a grotesque troll.  And there was too many bulgy eyes and gooey entrails. Not very pretty.  yes, violence can be conveyed in an aesthetically appealing way if done right.  I could have done without that art, but I did like some of the artwork, and I especially like the chiaroscuro cover that the volume I got from the library has.   My library has a plethora of Wolverine volumes to enjoy, and I am taking my time exploring them.  This was a nice use of my hour while I was waiting for my ride home.





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The Flash, Vol. 2: The Road to Flashpoint by Geoff Johns, Francis Manapul (Illustrator), Scott Kolins (Illustrator)

The Flash, Vol. 2: The Road to FlashpointThe Flash, Vol. 2: The Road to Flashpoint by Geoff Johns

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars


I actually read this almost two weeks ago.  I have been following the Flashpoint storyline since I watched the DC Animation movie, "The Flashpoint Paradox."  It's very intense and even disturbing.  This book is sort of like a prelude to that situation, related to the extreme hatred that Eobard Thawne has for the Flash (Bary Allen), who lived about a thousand years prior to the time in which Thawne lives, the 32nd century.  Thawne's hero worship turns into hatred because he cannot live up to the standard that Allen has set. Frankly, Thawne is a bully, a creep, and an uneasy mix of sociopath and psychopath.  It made this book unpalatable reading in that he manipulates the timeline in terrible ways just to get what he wants.  When this doesn't achieve the result he desires, he decides to go back in time and wreck if not destroy Barry Allen's life, when he realizes he cannot eradicate Allen from the timeline. 

This wasn't bad reading. I just didn't think that it compares to the powerful impact of the following Flashpoint volumes.  I like the Flash, but I realize that I wasn't as drawn into a story where it's just about him, and other Justice League members don't feature.  I don't know how fair a statement that is just yet, so I will have to read more Flash volumes to decide if this is true or not.

It think this deserves 3.5 stars. It's diverting and Thawne truly is a piece of work. I feel that his characterization was stronger than Barry and other members of the Flash family, so that's part of why my rating wasn't higher.  But I think it's still pretty good.  I get increasingly fascinated with time travel, and the Flash presents such a distinctive look at time travel and the concept of faster-than-light travel.



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The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie (A Flavia de Luce Mystery, #1)The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I finished this about a week and a half ago, but this is my first opportunity to write a review.  I have steadily become very enamored with mysteries over the past few years, and I love when the sleuth is atypical. In this case, it's a ten-year-old girl with an obsession for chemistry, poisons in particular.  This book stands out because of Flavia's very unique point of view.

I am a big nerd. I won't even lie. I love trivia and I love science facts. While my interest is more biological science and medicine, I admit to a love of chemistry.  I connected to her in this way.    This young woman has set up her own chemistry laboratory and regularly does experiments with compounds based on her readings from her deceased relative Tarquin de Luce, whose laboratory she appropriated in her family's home.  Flavia has a sense of loneliness being the youngest daughter of three and so different from her older two sisters (and the fact that they are caught up in their own interests) and a father who is emotionally unavailable due to the loss of his wife and his war experiences.  Like many children who grow up surrounded by neglectful adults, Flavia is rather precocious and mischievous.  When a man is murdered in her garden, she takes it upon herself to solve the murder, especially when her father is accused of the crime. And she does an excellent job.

I liked Flavia's investigative process. She uses the tools in her arsenal and gets fairly hands on solving the crime. She displays a fearlessness that might put an older investigator to shame.  Flavia is observant and has an inquisitive and analytical mind that allows her to process the information she receives as she discovers clues about the man who was murdered and how it connects to her family and others in her small community.  And it makes that the world is a lot smaller than one would think.

At times, Flavia does come off as a bit bratty. But it's to be expected, considering that she is more or less ignored by her family.  I like that this book shows how family work.  Even good families have some degree of dysfunction, but in the end, the love of family members usually comes out.  I appreciated her relationship with her father's retainer, Dogger, a troubled man suffering from PTSD from being a prisoner of war, but very kindhearted and loyal.   Flavia's viewpoint touches on very adult issues in a hopeful, often humorous and essentially truthful way that I really appreciated.

I liked the backstory about her dad and how it relates to the mystery. It was sad and kind of disturbing at the same time.  You can see that the person behind the murder truly has no moral limits to what he'll do, and when Flavia ends up in his path, I truly feared for her safety.

This book is as much a coming of age story as a mystery. I love them, seeing life through the eyes of a child or teenager, as they learn that life is a lot more complicated that they previously thought, and how this narrative shows the resilience and inner strength and intuitive intelligence of young people. 

Flavia is a fun lead character. I'll definitely continue this series and see what mysteries of life and chemistry she'll encounter and solve next.



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Sunday, July 05, 2015

Wife by Contract, Mistress by Demand by Carole Mortimer

Wife By Contract, Mistress By DemandWife By Contract, Mistress By Demand by Carole Mortimer

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Does step-sibs getting together turn you off?  You might still like this book.  Gabriella fell like a ton of bricks for her new stepbrother Rufus.  He saw it and ultimately gave into her amorous advances. Well sort of.  Then he walks away.  From then on, Gabriella hates him.  Five years later, they are brought back together by a clause in Rufus' father's will that states if they don't marry, Rufus will lose control of the family business, a department store chain, and fifty million dollars to his feckless cousin.  Gabriella gets half of the fortune if she marries and lives with Rufus for six months and she gets ownership of the restaurant in the London store. The problem is she can't stand Rufus and he doesn't respect her. He thinks she's a gold-digger, like her mother (who wasn't) and his ex-wife, who he had to buy off to get custody of his then infant daughter.  Gabriella has another incentive to marry Rufus. She can't stand his cousin since an altercation that occurred three months prior, and the idea of his inheriting is detestable and the implications it would have for her.  Can they make a marriage work, even for such a short time?

I liked this a lot. I admit I was a bit turned off by how Gabrielle just melts like a ton of bricks whenever Rufus touches her.  It doesn't shed the best light on a heroine who is so gaga over someone who thinks so little of her.  However, that's more or less standard vintage HP fare, and I think that it's apparent that she's still deeply in love with Rufus, although her so-called loved has appeared to turn into hate.  I would have liked Rufus to treat her better and not be such a jerk to her, even though I knew it was because he did have feelings for her and was afraid to feel for her, due to the situation with his ex. 

I really liked Gabriella.  She had grown into a pretty strong woman and had a good head on her shoulders.   I liked that she was a chef and made a pretty good career for herself in the five years (although she did have a financial crisis that made her need a loan from her step-dad, which of course made her look bad to Rufus).  She managed to hold her own against Rufus, for the most part, although she did have a bad case of putty knees for him.  I like how she gently takes on the role of stepmother to a reluctant and spoiled stepdaughter who really does need to have more discipline for a father who spoils her too much.

I gave this four stars because it had drama, passion and angst, and a likable heroine.  Rufus was a bit of a jerk, but with this line, that's not a deal breaker.  A nice older HP to keep me busy for a couple of hours.



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An Heiress for His Empire (Ruthless Russians #1)An Heiress for His Empire by Lucy Monroe

My rating: 3.25 of 5 stars


A well-written book but almost zero tension.  Everytime I thought the author had managed to build an angle for HP-style tension, it was quickly diffused.  I feel that there was a lot of potential here.  Tough-minded executive hero of Russian heritage, poor little rich girl with daddy issues, forced marriage scenario.  But it turns out where everyone is really nice to each other, and even though Viktor blew off Madison years ago and they weren't friends in the interim, it takes a short discussion to clear all that up.  A slightly longer discussion has them agreeing to get married. Sex works out perfectly, and while Viktor has sowed his wild oats, Madison has kept her aged hymenal status for an incredible to believe twenty-four years.  I'm being a bit sarcastic, but that was a big irritating that such a huge deal was made about her being a virgin so long.  Yeah, I know that most people aren't virgins into their twenties, I think that way too much of a deal was made of it. And I found it irritating that while Madison couldn't feel that way about other men, Viktor was able to have his share of sexual attachments in the interim. When asked why he didn't take her up on her offer at eighteen, his answer is too glib for my tastes. "It's marriage or nothing with you."  But I guess women who aren't Madison can be used to slake his sexual urges with no emotional entanglement. *Rolls eyes."  I'm all for virginity.  I like virgin heroines.  But I really hate that double standard for men.  It sticks in my craw.  Your mileage my vary. Of course after marriage, declarations of love occur equally smoothly.  It's all too smooth for me.

Yeah, that's the problem. Everything felt too copacetic in this book.  I guess that would be fine if you were looking for an easygoing romance where everything is assured, despite a sticky beginning.  I wasn't.

I did like the descriptions of Viktor's grandparents Russian marriage customs, and the family drama aspect almost created more tension, almost.

I think this is a perfectly fine book if you're in that headspace where you don't want too much drama and tension. But usually, I reach for a Harlequin Presents because that's exactly what I'm looking for. So it failed to meet my needs.

I would say that this is worthy of 3.5 stars.  I took off a star and a half because there's practically no tension and the obnoxious virginity hype/double standard was irritating.

Not bad, just not very exciting.



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Shattered Dreams by Jacqueline Baird

Shattered TrustShattered Trust by Jacqueline Baird

My rating: 4.25 of 5 stars


This was intense like I like my Harlequin Presents.  I honestly didn't like Nick at all initially. I totally thought the worst of him.  But then there would be moments where he looked so devastated and heartbroken.  I sort of guessed what his issue was partway into the book, and that he was trying to push Abby away.  I also felt he must be deeply in love with her and that's why he was trying to get them back together. It was heartbreaking to see Nick interact with the son he had rejected four years before.  But I could see why Abby didn't trust him and certainly didn't want to fall back in love with him, since it had cost her so much the first time around.  This book really makes you believe the hero was a cheater, but hang in there if you don't like cheating.  It all turns out well.

I liked that both lead characters are so three-dimensional.  You see all their traits, even the ones that aren't as pretty, such as Abby's jealousy of other women.  Although that is really understandable, considering the situation.  I like that Baird shows Nick at his worst, but allows the reader to gain the ability to think favorably about Nick and believe he loves his family and his wife.  He was a very tortured guy and that came across very clearly.  I think this is one of the HPs where you can feel just as strongly about the hero and the heroine.

Books like these are why I avidly reach for the older Harlequin Presents. They really bring the emotion and intensity for the reader. 

Overall rating: 4.25/5.0 stars.



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Saturday, July 04, 2015

Coraline by Neil Gaiman

CoralineCoraline by Neil Gaiman

My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars


"Coraline" continues my love affair with Neil Gaiman's books on audio. I love his voice so much. It's soothing but also keeps my mind focused on the story.  I think that he endows his words with all the emphasis, power and creative energy they should have.  He's really great with different voices as well. "Coraline" might be a short book on audio, but it's so rich and fulfilling.

I freely admit I had ghoulish tastes in books when I was a girl. I read every scary or dark fantasy novel in the children's section, and some multiple times (The Gruesome Green Witch I'm looking at you!).  I would have loved this book if it had been written when I was a young girl. It's nicely scary and intense, but also suitable for a child (and adults like me).  The "Other Mother" seethes with menace, and the use of subtle details (like her button eyes, penchant for eating beetles, and hair that waves as though a breeze is blowing although it isn't.)  There are even gruesome touches, such as the fact that some of the inhabitants of the world the "Other Mother" created are barely formed, gelatinous blobs.   I agree with another reviewer who said that they admired how brave Coraline was (and she's brave in the real sense, doing something in spite of her fears).  She's really an awesome young girl (but also realistic in her flaws).

I think that Gaiman has a sense of childhood that has not faded with his age. He understands the joy and the disappointments of it. Coraline is a young girl surrounded by adults, and that's a tough situation.  She seethes with physical and mental energy, and while appropriate in development for her age, she's also mature and capable of taking care of herself to a degree. But like any other child, she yearns for the love and attention of parents who care about her.  Luckily, she is able to see through the "Other Mother" and realizes that her parents are exactly what she needs and not a figment of her imagination with a menace beneath the wish fulfillment.

I would have to give this one 4.5 stars because it doesn't quite meet the high standards of The Graveyard Book in comparison. But it really is an outstanding book.  The movie is pretty good, if you get a chance to watch it.  I saw it first, and I plan to re-watch it and compare it since I watched it years ago and I'm just now reading the book.

If you can get this on audio, I highly recommend it.



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The Unleashing by Shelly Laurenston

The Unleashing (Call of Crows, #1)The Unleashing by Shelly Laurenston

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


This was a group read for the Dangerous Hero Addict Support Group, and I'm glad it got voted for.  It gave me that push to read Shelly Laurenston. I've heard from many that she's a good author, and I actually have most of her Dragon books written under G.A. Aiken, but I just hadn't gotten around to reading her books written under this name.

One thing that one needs to understand about this book is that it's very heroine and women-bonding centered.  Kera is a woman who needed strong bonds with women who had her back and who accepted her no matter what, and she found that with the Crows. At the same time, it's a romance, but the romance doesn't really develop until maybe 70 or so pages into the novel.  Having said that, I found this very enjoyable.  It's really funny and every character is a real 'character'.  There's even a dog that manages to steal some scenes.

I liked Vig, a lot.  He's a dangerous hero, but in a cuddly kind of way (when he's not in battle mode and ripping people's arms off.)  He's very supportive to Kera, and I'd call him the perfect boyfriend.  I would say the cover is highly misleading. I tried not to be embarrassed about it when I'd have it at work and my coworkers saw it.  Vig has a big beard and lots of hair. He's not a clean-shaven male model type.  I guess the publishers didn't think people would go for a cover with Vig as he looks in the book.  It seems to me that having big beards is very much in vogue, so I'd find that intriguing if the cover actually reflected that (not that like facial hair, because I don't). I like that Vig was comfortable with himself and thus with Kera as she was.  I think that's so crucial in a relationship that people accept you as you are.  They want the best for you, but they aren't constantly trying to change you.  The romance worked for me because it was built on mutual like and respect, as well as passion and strong emotion.

This book is pretty violent, with descriptive action scenes.  It wasn't over the top, and after reading Matt Reilly this past month, it seemed kind of mild, to be honest.  The story is about a violent subculture of fighters for the Norse gods who go all out.  I wasn't surprised for it to be violent with that expectation.  The story itself is intriguing and makes me want to keep reading this series.

So I really liked this one. I liked Kera a lot. She was a real person and I appreciated her strengths and weaknesses.  She was very caring, but tough as well.  I loved the multicultural feel to this book. There are people of just about every race and ethnicity.  And considering this is based on Norse mythology, it was cool that Laurenston was able to achieve this.  I also loved how the Crows are all strong women but not all cut from the same mode. I love when the diversity of strong women is presented instead of making it seem like all women have to be the same to be strong and confident.

There was a lot to appreciate about this book. Four well earned stars.



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Pulse of The Heartland by Melinda Cross

Pulse of the HeartlandPulse of the Heartland by Melinda Cross

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars


I liked this, but at the same time, I didn't love the hero. He came off as a jerk from the beginning.  I don't mind a hero who torments the heroine (in a gentle way like the boy at school who teases the girl he likes), but his attitude of entitlement and his overweening arrogance killed it for me.  I almost felt like Nick was considered perfect with no faults, but Emily had to justify herself for her practices and beliefs because they were wrong.  I guess I felt like there was a sexist overtone to this book (and a little bit of the "traditional woman is the right kind of woman" vibe to this that irritated me).  I'm not saying that Emily couldn't use a different viewpoint, but how much did Nick try to understand her or show acceptance for who she was and why she lived life that way? Not much. From the beginning, Nick seemed like he was on a mission to change her or shake her up.  I think I might have felt somewhat better if Nick had ever said that he loved her or in his pursuing  of Emily, he showed more than purely lust or sexual attraction. It seemed like he was all about getting her into bed.

I wasn't very satisfied with the ending of this book.  It left a bad taste in my mouth because no words of love were said, and Emily was the one who was doing all the giving up and submitting (other than Nick staying in town).  While submitting isn't a bad word (depending on the root of the act), her submission didn't feel right to me.

I tend to over-think things and I know that I am thinking about this book from a personal vantage point because I do have issues with the perception of women in society and the persistent view that all women need to fit the same mode in relationship with men.   Marriages and relationships don't always have to follow the same model, but it seemed as though being with Nick had to be according to his terms, and that's always wrong to me.  I feel that love should be about mutual submission. I would have love to see Nick do some of the surrendering in this book. 

** Part of men thinks the nice brown eyed guy she danced with a lot at the block party might have been a good choice for Emily. I guess we'll never know.

It's not a badly written book at all. It's good, but the underlying message that came across didn't work for me.

Overall rating: 3.5/5.0 stars.



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Pulse of the Heartland by Melinda Cross

I liked this, but at the same time, I didn't love the hero. He came off as a jerk from the beginning.  I don't mind a hero who torments the heroine (in a gentle way like the boy at school who teases the girl he likes), but his attitude of entitlement and his overweening arrogance killed it for me.  I almost felt like Nick was considered perfect with no faults, but Emily had to justify herself for her practices and beliefs because they were wrong.  I guess I felt like there was a sexist overtone to this book (and a little bit of the "traditional woman is the right kind of woman" vibe to this that irritated me).  I'm not saying that Emily couldn't use a different viewpoint, but How much did Nick try to understand her or show acceptance for who she was and why she lived life that way. From the beginning, Nick seemed like he was on a mission to change her or shake her up.  I think I might have felt somewhat better if Nick had ever said that he loved her or did pursuing in a way that didn't seem purely lust or sexual.

I wasn't very satisfied with the ending of this book.  It left a bad taste in my mouth because no words of love were said, and Emily was the one who was giving up and submitting.  While submitting isn't a bad word (depending on the root of the act), her submission didn't feel right to me.

I tend to over-think things and I know that I am thinking about this book from a personal vantage point because I do have issues with the perception of women in society and the persistent view that all women need to fit the same mode in relationship with me.   Marriages and relationships don't always have to follow the same model, but it seemed as though being with Nick had to be according to his terms, and that's always wrong to me.  I feel that love should be about mutual submission. I would have love to see Nick do some of the surrendering in this book. 

** Part of thinks the nice brown eyed guy she danced with a lot at the block party might have been a good choice for Emily. I guess we'll never know.

It's not a badly written book at all. It's good, but the underlying message that came across didn't work for me.

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

House of Mystery, Vol.5: Under New Management by House of Mystery, Vol. 5: Under New Management by Matthew Sturges , Luca Rossi (Illustrator), José Marzán Jr. (Illustrator), Bill Willingham , Sergio Aragonés, Dave Justus, Paul Levitz, Alisa Kwitney, John Bolton (Illustrator), Farel Dalrymple (Illustrator), Sam Kieth (Illustrator)

House of Mystery, Vol. 5: Under New ManagementHouse of Mystery, Vol. 5: Under New Management by Matthew Sturges

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


I think I just need to hang up the towel and admit this series is not for me. It's gruesome and dark in a way that doesn't appeal to me.  The characters are either sadistic or they fall prey to other sadistic characters. I wouldn't say I'm too squeamish to enjoy any horror, but this kind of horror I don't like.  I was drawn in by the story within a story format and the idea of a house between dimensions. But those things don't overshadow the unappealing aspects for me. I feel the series really jumped the shark with one event.  I was like, seriously!  I did kind of like the cameo though.  I guess I'm going to have to say that this is the last volume I will read.  My sister is tough and I'll ask her to hold me accountable not to pick any of these up.  It's a shame. I want to know how things end.  I suppose I'll have to do what I did with the Under the Dome show. I had my sister keep me honest!  I stepped away and haven't looked back, other than drooling over pictures of Mike Vogel.  I don't think that there's a hot actor in this series to tempt me to reading more of this series.

Three stars because it's not really bad quality or poorly written. It's just not my taste.



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JLA: Earth 2 by Grant Morrison, Frank Quitely (Illustrator)

JLA: Earth 2JLA: Earth 2 by Grant Morrison

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars


I can't get over how disturbing the evil twins of the Justice League are.  I mean just the Triad is bad enough.  Ultraman is a sleazy, psychopathic, cruel bully.  Owlman is like a demon-possessed Batman (or maybe if Batman was the Antichrist).  Superwoman is a little more developed in this than in Justice League, Vol. 5: Forever Heroes, and I what I know, I definitely don't like.  She's playing Owlman and Ultraman off each other, and I think she hates both of them (but feels more lust for Owlman).  She's sadistic and psychosexually deviant.  Yeah, it's just bad.  More disturbing is that Earth 3 is the opposite of Earth 2. Evil is the predominant value, given free reign.

I think that the science seems too implausible (or at least was so nebulously explained, I didn't believe it was plausible), and I didn't get how the day was saved in the end.  I feel that Crisis on Two Earths Justice League movie (which I suspect this is based on) explains the situation a lot better.  It's worth watching as an adjunct to this graphic novel. I re-watched it again last night and I liked the further insight into the characters.

It was pretty good, and kept my interest. Surprisingly adult and dark in content. It's kind of fun if you want to see the dark side of the triad of the Justice League and Lex Luthor as a good guy.

Overall rating: 3.5/5.0 stars.



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Monday, June 29, 2015

JSA, Vol. 4: Fair Play by Geoff Johns, Rags Morales (Illustrator), Stephen Sadowski (Illustrator)

JSA, Vol. 4: Fair PlayJSA, Vol. 4: Fair Play by Geoff Johns

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


My first official JSA graphic novel. I admit I avoided these for a while because I thought they were all set in the early 20th century, and I am turned off by that dated 50s morality feel.  However, I was pleasantly surprised to see that this takes place in the modern period, where time has passed, and only the long-lived (or immortal) JSA members are still active and alive in the organization. 

I was not blown away by this, but since I liked it more than I expected, I gave it three stars. They have some interesting team members with cool powers. It's surprisingly multicultural, which is a bonus. They take on some intense missions, and are actually kidnapped into Roulette's modern day gladiatorial games, which are highly lethal, to say the least.  I liked the character's ingenuity and use of their strengths and team work to get out of those situation. Loved the Batman cameo (big surprise).

I liked some characters more than others.   I didn't care for the young fellow whose name I forgot. He was a petulant brat.

Not a title I'd reach for first, but I'm willing to read more.



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A Deal Before the Altar by Rachael Thomas

A Deal Before the AltarA Deal Before the Altar by Rachael Thomas

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


I'm sad to say that this was a let down for me.  The blurb sounded really cool, since Marriage of Convenience books are my kryptonite.  And both of the characters are damaged souls (check).  Both have dysfunctional childhoods and parental failures in their background (makes for an interesting story and built in angst).  And both suffer from fear of emotional involvement (not my favorite, but I get it).  And yet, I couldn't get excited about this book.  I felt like I was thumbing through the pages and waiting for the spark. Even the love scenes were unexciting. Dare I say I was actually a bit bored?  I think that the ending bumped my rating up a little. It was sweet and dramatic in a way I like, and Georgina showed some chops. She's a heck of a woman.  I found her ability to play the game and be fearless in the face of other's negative opinions pretty impressive.  I found Santos less compelling.  I thought he was in a state of arrested development about his father's remarrying and having another child. I think Santos was lucky to have a woman like Georgina.  I think they loved each other, but I didn't feel much about it either way.

I would read more by this author, but I hope that she develops that ability to make her book sizzle and engender pathos in her reader.

Not bad enough for less than three stars, but too disaffecting for more than three.



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